Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: EPA penalties for polluters cut in half under Trump | Court orders regulators to implement Obama efficiency rules | Sully weighs in on Pruitt’s first-class travel

Getty Images

EPA PENALTIES FOR POLLUTERS CUT IN HALF UNDER TRUMP: The amount of civil penalties charged to polluters by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped by nearly half under President Trump, according to a new study released Thursday.

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) found that in the year since Trump’s inauguration, the penalties companies were forced to pay for violating regulations dropped by 49 percent compared to in President Obama’s first year.

Looking specifically at penalty amounts determined for cases lodged by the Trump administration, EIP found the Trump EPA collected $30 million compared to $71 million and $50 million in penalties under the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, respectively.


The report also found the number of cases filed against polluters by the Trump administration dropped drastically. There were 44 percent fewer cases opened under Trump than Obama in the first year of their administrations. In 2017, Trump recommended the Justice Department prosecute 48 civil cases compared to 71 civil cases prosecuted in 2009 under Obama. Comparatively, Bush officials lodged 112 cases in his first year in office.

“President Trump’s dismantling of the EPA means violators are less likely to be caught, making illegal pollution cheaper,” said Eric Schaeffer, EIP executive director and former director of EPA enforcement, in a statement. “The president’s ‘law and order’ agenda apparently wasn’t intended for fossil fuel companies and other big polluters.”

Read more here.


COURT ORDERS REGULATORS TO IMPLEMENT EFFICIENCY RULES: The Trump administration must implement four energy efficiency regulations that it has delayed for more than a year, a federal court ruled Thursday.

The Department of Energy (DOE) wrote the rules and made them public in December 2016, under the Obama administration.

But when President Trump took office Jan. 20, 2017, his administration took advantage of a 45-day window for error corrections to review the rules and potentially scuttle them. The DOE still has not published the rules in Federal Register, the final step to implement them.

“This failure is a violation of the department’s duties under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act,” Judge Vince Chhabria, who former President Barack Obama nominated to the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, wrote in the Thursday ruling.

“Summary judgment is therefore granted to the plaintiffs on this claim, and the department is ordered to publish the standards within 28 days of this ruling.”

The ruling is a setback to the Trump administration’s efforts to delay, weaken or undo major parts of Obama’s aggressive environmental agenda.

At issue in the Thursday case are rules setting energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, air compressors, commercial packaged boilers and uninterruptible power supplies.

DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the agency is reviewing the decision and considering its next steps.

Read more here.


SULLY WEIGHS IN ON PRUITT’S TRAVEL: Famous retired airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger weighed in on EPA head Scott Pruitt’s premium-class flying record, saying there’s no reason first class is safer.

Pruitt and the EPA have cited security concerns to justify him using taxpayer funds to fly in first or business class, despite government standards meant to limit official travel to coach class.

“First class is not safer than economy,” Sullenberger told The Washington Post.

Some safety experts the Post spoke with agreed with Sullenberger.

“I cannot think of anything” that would make sitting up front safer, Harro Ranter, chief executive of the Aviation Safety Network, told the Post. “In an actual accident, best chances of survival are usually in the rear.”

Read more here.


Pruitt doesn’t have a ‘blanket waiver’: The EPA retracted its claim on Wednesday that Pruitt has a “blanket waiver” to fly first class on flights whenever he wants.

The EPA originally said that Pruitt had obtained a waiver of federal standards that limit officials’ ability to book first-class flights with taxpayer funds.

“As such, for every trip Administrator Pruitt submits a waiver to fly in either first or business class,” an EPA spokesman said on Wednesday.

But the spokesman originally said on Tuesday that Pruitt had been granted more leeway in flying business class or first class — an exception that doesn’t exist in federal rules.

The agency changed the statement after garnering criticism from lawmakers in both parties.

Read more here.


ENERGY DEPARTMENT TO INVEST $6.5M TO IMPROVE COAL: Nine projects focused on coal industry development and innovation will receive $6.5 million dollars in federal funding, DOE announced Thursday.

The investment by DOE and the National Energy Technology Laboratory will go towards helping the nine companies and research institutes implement the first pilot stages of their projects, focused on improving “coal-powered systems’ performance, efficiency, emission reduction, and cost of electricity.”

The $6.5 million will go towards the first stages of the pilot projects, which focus on determining feasibility and finalizing budgets.

The DOE funding is part of a larger $50 million investment opportunity announced by the department in August 2017 to support the development, design and construction of “transformational coal technologies.”

Companies receiving funding for the first stage of the project include General Electric Company and Echogen Power Systems.

The Southwest Research Institute will receive the most DOE funding — $998,862 — to design and implement a large-scale coal-combustion pilot plant, which could reduce the cost of electricity used while capturing carbon dioxide.

Energy Department leadership under President Trump has made clear its desire to increase the exploitation of coal within the United States and prop up the fossil fuel industry. Last September, Secretary Rick Perry asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent commission, to require that electric grid operators pay more for electricity from power plants with at least 90 days of fuel on-site, a standard that only coal and nuclear could meet.

Read more here.



Household products are putting almost as much volatile organic compound pollution into the air as cars and industries combined, NPR reports.

Houston, long the capital of the nation’s oil and natural gas industry, is increasingly home to renewable energy companies and their workers, the Houston Chronicle reports.

A Kentucky lawmaker’s funny story about tomatoes and wind energy tax credits closely aligns with one written by a conservative group, the Louisville Courier Journal reports.



Check out Thursday’s stories …

-Court rules Energy Dept. must implement Obama efficiency rules

-Amazon reaches $1.2 million settlement with EPA over illegal pesticide sales

-Democrats request info on ‘repeated environmental concerns’ at Ohio pipeline

-Regulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage

-Energy Department to invest $6.5M in projects aiming to improve the performance of coal

-EPA penalties for polluters cut in half under Trump, study finds

-Pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger on Pruitt’s flights: ‘First class is not safer than economy’

-EPA backtracks on claim that Pruitt has ‘blanket waiver’ to fly first-class whenever he wants


Tags Barack Obama Coal Department of Energy Donald Trump Drilling Environment first class flying leaking Rick Perry River Scott Pruitt spill

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video